Report: Domestic Violence Homicides Hold Steady As Other Forms Of Homicide Fall

Oct 1, 2018

A new report shows that while there has been an overall decline in homicides, both nationally and locally, the rate of domestic violence homicides hasn’t improved.

“With estimates of over 25,000 women, children and men being victims, right here in Jacksonville, of domestic abuse, today is really about shining a light in a very dark place,” Mayor Lenny Curry while proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Jacksonville.

Mayor Lenny Curry speaking at Monday's press event.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

Curry made the proclamation at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on Monday, as city and state officials shared data from the Domestic Violence Fatality Review 2017 Report.

“In 2017 our team of professionals reviewed 14 cases that resulted in 15 deaths [in Jacksonville],” said Assistant State Attorney Adair Newman, Fourth Judicial Circuit, as she began sharing some of the findings of the 2017 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report.

Assistant State Attorney Adair Newman, Fourth Judicial Circuit, speaking at Monday's press event.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

According to the report, 38 percent of all local domestic homicide cases in 2017 involved intimate partners. Since 1997, 2017 was the only year when non-intimate homicides outnumbered intimate homicides in Duval County.

Additionally, two of 2017’s non-intimate homicides happened in correlation with an attack on an intimate partner - a three-year-old child and a daughter who was trying to help her mother.

Over the past 20 years, 75 percent of domestic violence homicides in Jacksonville involved intimate partners.

According to the report Nonfatal domestic violence, 2003-2012, intimate partner violence makes up 15 percent of all violent crime, it’s most common among women between the ages of 18 and 24 and 19 percent of intimate partner violence involves a weapon.

Throughout the United States, 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute, according to The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report. That comes out to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. That same report showed that one in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.

One in three female murder victims and one in twenty male murder victims are killed by intimate partners, according to research published in the Criminal Justice Policy Review. Meanwhile, 72 percent of all murder-suicides are committed by intimate partners and 94 percent of murder-suicide victims are women, according to the Violence Policy Center.

The report looked at 14 domestic violence murder cases in Duval County. Seventy-nine percent of them, or 11 cases, involved a male suspect and 53 percent of the victims were females.  

“This continues to highlight that women are still extremely vulnerable in these domestic violence situations,” Newman said. In 2016, all but two suspects were men, while in 2015 and 2014 all nine suspects were men.

The report shows that men committed 76 percent of the intimate homicides of women and 89 percent of the non-intimate homicides between 1997 and 2017 in Duval County, including 89 percent of all murder-suicides. Every multiple homicide between 1997 and 2017 was committed by a man.

In nine, or 64 percent, of the 2017 domestic homicides in Duval County the suspect had a prior arrest for domestic violence. Only one of those suspects was ordered to batterers’ intervention, and that suspect was a woman. Between 1997 and 2017, 61 suspects, or 27 percent, had prior arrests for domestic violence.

“The fact of the matter is, the sooner we can help victims get the necessary services the first time a domestic incident occurs, the more we can help prevent a potential domestic murder from occuring in the future,” Sheriff Mike Williams said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams speaking at Monday's press event.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

In 2017 there were five cases where children were present when the domestic homicide occurred, including the one case where a three-year-old was killed.

“When children witness violence, the trauma has a ripple effect that shapes their lives for years,” Newman said.

Another major factor in these domestic violence cases, according to Newman, is substance abuse.

“Six cases, or 43 percent of those reviewed in 2017, involved suspects who had a prior arrest relating to substance abuse,” she said. “It is a number that has dramatically increased over these past 20 years.”

Between 1997 and 2017, 16 percent of domestic violence homicide suspects had a prior history of substance abuse arrests.

“As with previous years, firearms remain the primary weapon in domestic violence homicides,” said Newman. “Abusers who have firearms have the potential to become killers.”

In fact, if the abuser owns or has access to a gun, the risk of domestic violence situations escalating to a homicide increases by 500 percent, according to a study from the American Journal of Public Health.

In 2017, nine, or 60 percent, of domestic violence homicides were committed with a gun. Between 1997 and 2017, 57 percent (139) of all domestic violence homicides were committed with guns.

The report found that there is a widespread lack of understanding by victims and the general public regarding the potential for deadly violence by intimate partners.

“As of September 24th of this year, there have been more than 4,600 reported incidents of domestic violence in Duval County, this year. That number is close to the number of incidents reported in 2017 during that same time period,” Sheriff Williams said. “Between October 1st, 2017, and Wednesday, September 19th, of this year, the InVEST Team reviewed 7,168 reports. Out of these, 579 reports were identified as potential cases, with 61 victims accepting services. That small percentage is mind boggling.”

The InVEST, or Intimate Violence Enhanced Services Team, program is a local initiative that aims to reduce intimate partner homicides by integrating victim services from a variety of criminal justice and social service agencies. One such agency is Hubbard House, a full-service certified domestic violence center that provides prevention and intervention services to domestic violence survivors and their families in Duval and Baker Counties in Northeast Florida.

“In 2017, 4,407 women, children and men received shelter and services from Hubbard House on their journey to peace,” said Gail Patin, CEO of Hubbard House. “Many others were served at our sister domestic violence centers.”

Hubbard House’s sister domestic violence centers include the Betty Griffin Center, Quigley House and Micah’s Place, all of which had representatives at Monday’s kick-off event for Jacksonville’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to Patin, leaving a violent relationship is the most dangerous time for victims. “In fact, half of the 2017 intimate partner violence incidents happened while the person was leaving or after they had left,” Patin said.

Patin’s main objective on Monday was to help raise awareness in the community, and she made one request of everyone in attendance: “Join our Facebook (@HubbardHouseInc) or Twitter (@HubbardHouse) communities and share one of our October posts with the hashtag ‘#9TooMany.’ This hashtag is specific to Duval Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it recognizes the nine 2017 Duval County intimate partner related homicides. Yes, there were 15 domestic violence homicides. Hubbard House and our sister shelters focus on the intimate partner homicides, as that is our mission.”

“If your partner has ever threatened to kill you, threatened you with a weapon or you believe that he or she will kill you, you need help now,” Patin went on to say. “Please find a safe place, a safe phone and call the 24 hour hotline number, which is 1-800-500-1119, and you can speak to a trained advocate. Calls are confidential and the help is free. Let us help you leave safely. We believe you. We are here for you. You are not alone.”

To read the full report click here.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.